Book Review: The Heretic

5 Dec

640952In 1536 it seems the entire known world is changing–strange new lands are discovered and the Reformation is challenging Rome and its power. In England the king’s declaration of a new church and dissolution of the monasteries overturns the customs and authorities of centuries. In the new world order, spies abound and no one can be trusted.

To Brother Pacificus of the Abbey of St. Benet’s in Norfolk, it looks like his abbey alone will be spared dissolution. But this last Benedictine house is mired in murder and intrigue. Then when Pacificus falls under suspicion, more than his own dark past comes to light, while the body count keeps rising. Pacificus’s fate becomes entwined with that of three local children after their parents are arrested for treason and heresy. Protected only by this errant monk, a mysterious leper, and a Dutch eel-catcher, the children must quickly adjust; seeking their own identity, they soon find that neither parents nor protectors are quite what they seem.

Based on historical events, this post-medieval mystery is laced with romance, fueled by greed, and punctuated with bouts of feasting, smuggling, and jailbreak.


Vyner Brooks_HenryHenry Vyner-Brooks is a Landscape Architect, Property developer and Assistant Pastor at Cockermouth Christian Centre. He lives with his wife, Ruth and five children in the northern Lake District. Since surviving cancer Henry has also focused on a teaching ministry, working as a writer, key note speaker and recording artist. Hobbies include mountain expeditions, films, playing guitar/piano, reading histories and biographies, and rearing a small heard of goats.


My Impressions:

The Heretic is an impressive undertaking for debut author, Henry Vyner-Brooks. Coming in at a whopping 600+ pages, it is richly detailed, thoroughly researched and beautifully written. If you like true historical fiction, not just a book with an historic setting, then The Heretic is for you. It engaged and challenged my mind and touched my heart. Highly Recommended!

In 1536, the world is in an uproar. Henry VIII is in the process of seizing church lands and his advisors are making reforms. The guilds and merchant classes are thriving and the poor are restless. Pacificus, a Benedictine monk with a past, just wants peace and quiet in his chosen home of St. Benet’s monastery. But peace in Britain is elusive, and God is challenging all he believes.

The Heretic is first and foremost an historical novel set among the turmoil of the Reformation in England. It combines real events and historic figures with a fictional story line. Vyner-Brooks’ handling of the subject matter was seamless. I had to continually Google the events to find out just what really happened. And every time, I found historical accuracy. I view this as a plus! I love when a book makes me go beyond its pages. For readers who are a little less compulsive than me ;), there is plenty of action — uprisings, executions, tournaments and numerous escapes. Conspiracies, murders and plots abound, making The Heretic a book with a twisting, complex plot. The only negative I have is that the story kind of bogged down around page 350. But I persevered and am glad I did. Everything came together in the end. The book is written in third person/present tense, which makes the reader feel a part of the story.

As this book is set during England’s Reformation, much of the plot revolves around Henry’s reforms and supremacy over the church. The great houses of the church – monasteries, nunneries, etc. — are in danger; their members forced out when the land is seized by the crown. The Anabaptists are quietly trying to find religious freedom, but many end up burning at the stake. As a member of a church that finds its roots in the Anabaptist tradition, I found myself examining my own convictions and reactions to the persecution they faced. I found Pacificus, a truly multi-faceted and complex character, intriguing. His faith journey was real and sincere.

I highly recommend The Heretic. Don’t let its length scare you off, but make sure you have plenty of time to read it. It is certainly worth it. Please note: although this is a Christian novel, it was published in England. There is some profanity.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to Kregel and Lion Hudson for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

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